Escape Room Safety Report 2019

Escape rooms are a broadly safe activity.

In every escape room we played in 2019, we could have freed ourselves from the game in the event of an emergency, except for in 1 game, for only the first 5 minutes.

There is a small minority of companies that makes bad decisions. Thankfully, the owner community has generally recognized the need for safety and adhered to fire code and common sense.

A green exit sign with a person approaching a door.

Background

On January 13, 2019, we published a Basic Safety Evaluation for our escape room reviews.

We wrote, “the most important aspect of escape room safety is that players have the ability to free themselves in the event of an emergency.” That was the premise around which we established our safety rubric.

In that piece, we wrote “during 2019, we will maintain a dataset of basic escape room safety in the games that we play. We will issue a report at the end of the year.”

As we conclude 2019 today, here is the 2019 Basic Safety Report.

Data-Driven Analysis

This is a non-scientific study without random sampling. The dataset represents the games that we played in 2019.

We assigned a safety rating to 161 escape rooms that we played in 2019.*

This safety rating had two parts: Emergency Exit & Physical Restraints.

Emergency Exits

Room Escape Artist Emergency Exit Rating Scale:

We used this scale to evaluate every game we reviewed in 2019. The included percentages correlate to how often we gave a particular rating in 2019.

  • [A+] No Lock – 79.5% – Players are never locked in at all.
  • [A] Push To Exit – 16.77% – Players are magnetically locked in and may free themselves with the push of a button near the door.
  • [B] Emergency Key – 3.73% – Players may free themselves using a spare key hung near a locked exit door.
  • [F] No Emergency Exit – 0% – Players are trapped within the game and cannot exit unless they win or the door is opened by a gamemaster

In 100% of the escape rooms we played, we could leave the room through an emergency exit at any time.

96% of games met the industry standard of an unlocked exit or a push to exit button (A+ or A rating).

The remaining 6 games had emergency keys available to players next to the exit door.

Physical Restraints

Room Escape Artist Physical Restraints Rating Scale: 

We used this scale to evaluate every game we reviewed in 2019. The included percentages correlate to how often we gave a particular rating in 2019.

  • [A+] No Physical Restraints – 97.52% – Players are never physically restrained.
  • [A] Push To Release – 0.62% – Players are magnetically restrained and may free themselves with the push of a button within reach of their restraints.
  • [B] Mechanical Release – 1.24% – Players may free themselves using a mechanical release (like a safety switch on handcuffs).
  • [F] No Emergency Release – 0.62% – Players are restrained with no way to release the restraint other than winning the release or gamemaster intervention.

Physical restraints have become passé. Less than 3% of the games we played in 2019 had physical restraints of any kind. We explored the trajectory of this trend globally back in 2017: Escape Room Kink: Q&A On Physical Restraints.

Of the 4 games we played with physical restraints, only 1 game did not provide us a means to release ourselves.

Of note, while this one game absolutely failed, I will add that releasing ourselves from the handcuffs was the first puzzle. We spent mere minutes in handcuffs and as soon as we were out of the handcuffs, the exit door was unlocked. Nevertheless, we still believe that this is intolerable for an escape room in 2019.

Stylized image of handcuffs.

Data Breakdown

Safety RatingCount of Emergency ExitPercent of Emergency ExitCount of Physical RestraintsPercent of Physical Restraints
A+12879.50%15797.52%
A2716.77%10.62%
B63.73%21.24%
F00.00%10.62%
Total161100.00%161100.00%

*Some of the games we played in 2019 were situated such that they didn’t warrant a typical safety rating.

Data Bias

While this is a substantial dataset, it isn’t all-encompassing. We played a lot of escape rooms in 2019, but we didn’t play every escape room. (In fact, in some past years, we’ve played significantly more.) As noted above, this is a non-scientific study without random sampling.

This data is biased by where we played. We played mostly in the United States. During 2019, we played in 14 states, playing the most games in Colorado and Texas. We played in 4 other countries: Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the Netherlands.

When we travel, we put an emphasis on playing amazing and unusual games. We play escape rooms that are recommended by the community of escape room players. These tend to be escape games that are crafted with thought and care, which encompasses not only the gameplay and aesthetic, but also other aspects of design including safety.

A red sign reads "Exit" glowing in the darkness.

Conclusion

The overwhelming majority of escape rooms are safe for players. In all of 2019, with the exception of a few minutes at the start of one game, we were always able to free ourselves.

Anecdotally, I can add that in most games, we noticed emergency exit signage within the games, and before the game began we were briefed on how to exit the game in the event of an emergency.

We spent a lot of time in escape rooms and we always felt safe.

Announcing: Regional Escape Room Recommendations Guides

You may have noticed that the Regional Escape Room Recommendations Guides page appeared in our navigation, unannounced, back in October.

This is a new dropdown under “Find a Room” in the main navigation.

We’ve been writing these recommendations for a while, but now they are all collected in one place so that you can easily find them.

Stylized image of a hand holding a compass.

The Structure of Recommendations Guides

Room Escape Artist recommendations guides are divided into sections so that you can find a room that fits your needs. Common categorizations that you’ll find across many of the guides include:

  • Set & Scenery-Driven
  • Puzzle-centric
  • Tech-heavy
  • Newbie-friendly
  • Big Group Games
  • Spooky & Scary
  • Games with Actors

You’ll frequently find games listed under multiple categorizations.

The guides also include a “Market Standouts” section at the top. The games in this section could stand out because they are doing one thing spectacularly or because they are doing a lot of things well. They could be unusual creations or typical escape rooms executed really cleanly. Find them again in the categories to learn a bit more about each standout escape room.

Creating & Updating the Recommendations Guides

When we travel to a new region or city, we try to cover a wide range of games. We aim to visit multiple companies, trying at least one game at each. This helps us understand what the region has to offer and review in context.

We won’t pretend that these guides are comprehensive recommendations lists for each city or region. Due to time and travel constraints, we sometimes don’t get to all the games we would have liked to visit in a region.

Each recommendation guide is labeled with the date we last updated it. It sometimes takes us a few years to return to a city. If you’re looking at an older guide, it’s likely that new companies and new games have opened since we visited and they may not be listed. Refer to our escape room directory to see all the options in a given region.

Add Your Comments

If you visit a city and play something outstanding, please comment on these recommendations guides to let folks know about additional companies and games in a city or region. We encourage you to note a category in your comment, for example that a game is “puzzle-centric.”

Your comments will help traveling players, including us, next time we return to the city or region.

Coming Soon

You’ll see on the Regional Escape Room Recommendations Guides page that there are additional guides coming soon. We’re aiming to publish these and update others in the first part of 2020. Stay tuned.

Other Recommendations Lists

Golden Lock Winners

For additional escape room recommendations, check out past Golden Lock Award winners. This is the Room Escape Artist award for our favorite games we played in a given calendar year.

Tune in for the livestream of the 2019 Golden Lock Award winners on January 4, 2020.

TERPECA Winners

You can also refer to the Top Escape Rooms Project Enthusiasts’ Choice Award (TERPECA), an attempt to find the best escape rooms in the world by leveraging the rankings of the most experienced escape room enthusiasts in the world.

As we’ve said before, we recommend referring to the top 200 (or so) games on the TERPECA list as a collection of recommendations and ascribing less value to the specific ordinal rankings. There are tons of amazing games to play and many of them are on that list.

Keep Helping Us Find Great Games

Everyone needs help finding great games, even us. We can’t play them all and we’d rather shine a light on the fantastic escape rooms then wave the flag about the mediocre ones.

If you know of something truly amazing and worthy, we always love hearing about it. We keep detailed lists of the games that readers recommend. These are always at the top of our play-list if we end up near them.

Will Smith & Tom Holland Play an Escape Room [Reaction]

Actors Will Smith & Tom Holland visited Escape Hotel to play a game promoting their new movie. I have thoughts.

  1. Spiderman is English 🤯.
  2. We’ve never been to Escape Hotel because they have a reputation for a great lobby and pretty meh games. This video has confirmed the reputation.
  3. Their response to “you know the rules” was hilarious.
  4. Eww – blindfolds.
  5. lol – Tom’s response to being blindfolded.
  6. Will Smith and Tom Holland are incredibly charming. They managed to keep things entertaining by force of personality.
  7. It makes me sad when white-walled middle-of-the-road escape games represent escape rooms at large. Los Angeles has a wealth of wonderful escape rooms that would have been more fun and more visually interesting.
  8. Will, buddy, next time you’re looking for an escape room, have your people give us a shout. We’ll hook you up.
Will Smith & Tom Holland blindfolded by an in-character gamemaster.

Room Escape Divas – 106 – REA & A RECON 2020 Announcement

‘Tis the season for our annual Room Escape Divas appearance.

Room Escape Divas Logo, a cartoon representation of the four hosts.

Room Escape Divas Episode 106 – Room Escape Artist and the Escape Room Industry

Announcing Nick Moran at RECON

If you listen to the episode, or scan the timestamps below, you’ll learn that Nick Moran will be speaking at RECON.

RECON eye & penrose triangle logo.

The brilliant, funny, and talented Nick Moran (please, nobody tell him we said that) was Creative Director of Time Run and Game Director of Sherlock: The Game Is Now, in collaboration with Hartswood Films. Don’t miss out on hearing him speak!

Timestamps

As always, we covered a lot of ground. A few highlights include:

  • 00:00 – An escape room parody rendition of the 12 Days of Christmas performed by the big guy himself, Benito Suppa of Durham Escape Rooms.
  • 06:20 – Our new convention, the Reality Escape Convention (RECON) – including the announcement of Nick Moran as a speaker.
  • 19: 50 – My work on the Create the Escape TV pilot.
  • 24:33 – Behind the scenes of our CBS Sunday Morning TV appearance!
  • 27:22 – Speaking to the media about escape rooms.
  • 33:24 – Looking forward at the escape room industry
  • 37:19 – How we choose to give immediate feedback?
  • 53:34 – What’s your escape room kryptonite? (Building horror teams)
  • 55:16 – The rebrand of the Golden Lock Award
  • 58:23 – Our various escape room injuries
  • 1:00:36 – REA 5 Years Later
  • 1:02:00 – Our 2020 Montreal Tour
  • 1:04:26 – Escape Enthusiast Meetups (our next NYC meetup)
  • 1:05:30 – Starting REA
  • 1:09:30 – David is really good at breaking Manda during her signoff

It’s kind of amazing to me how far we and the Divas have come over the past half decade. They are truly putting out their best content these days. It’s delightful to listen to (and occasionally participate in.)

Finally, my favorite quote of the episode is Errol saying, “Oh… coming to me is not a safe place.”

Analysis – 2019 Top Escape Rooms Project – Enthusiasts’ Choice Award

Congratulations to the Top Escape Rooms Project Enthusiasts’ Choice Award (TERPECA) 2019 winners!

TERPECA’s stated goal is an attempt to find the very best escape rooms in the world.

This is not the same silliness as some of the ad-supported or attempted SEO-boosting click-fests. It is not the utter stupidity that is averaging Yelp or TripAdvisor or Google reviews. This is not a pay-for-placement publication. This is not an aggregator with only a handful of users.

We believe that the project succeeded in generating an immensely useful list of outstanding escape rooms. The winning rooms deserve this recognition.

Top Room Escape Project Enthusiasts' Choice Awards 2019 logo.

At Room Escape Artist, we’re viewing this list as a collection. We hope that traveling escape room players won’t take the ordinal numbers as the gospel.

We’ll expand on these thoughts a bit more in this, our TERPECA Editorial Perspective.

2019 Award Winners

In its second year, the Top Escape Rooms Project expanded in many ways: recruiting more players, involving more countries, and updating the infrastructure to facilitate this.

The most noticeable change from 2018, however, might be the number of winners. The top 50 escape rooms are the 2019 TERPECA winners. We’ve reviewed 19 of the 50 winners; we believe they are all truly deserving.

In-game: The entry way for The Dome opened, a sign reads, "Butterfly Safe Zone.".
Image via Escape Room Nederland

Rooms

Here are the Top 10:

  1. The Dome – Escape Room Nederland (Bunschoten, Netherlands)
  2. Paradox Project 2: The Bookstore [Paradox Project 2: To Βιβλιοπωλείο] – Paradox Project (Athens, Greece)
  3. The Man from Beyond – Strange Bird Immersive (Houston, TX, USA)
  4. Cutthroat Cavern – 13th Gate Escape (Baton Rouge, LA, USA)
  5. The Edison Escape Room – Palace Games (San Francisco, CA, USA)
  6. Tomb Hunter: Akasha’s Legend [Tomb Hunter: La leyenda de Akasha] – Escape Barcelona (Santa Coloma de Gramenet, Spain)
  7. Chapter 3: The Morgue – Evil Genius Escape Rooms (Los Angeles, CA, USA)
  8. Abduction 3: The Exam – Abduction (Badalona, Spain)
  9. The Lost Treasure of Alexander von Humboldt – The Room (Berlin, Germany)
  10. El Exorcista – No Exit (Athens, Greece)
In-game: lisa, chris, and drew inside of a shark.
Escape My Room

Here are the REA reviews for games we’ve played that ranked 11-50:

*This review is coming soon. Join us at RECON 2020, our escape room convention taking place in Boston in August, and play this game as part of your trip!

For the full list of winners and finalists, visit the TERPECA website.

In-game: 3 players in orange flightsuits working at the Operations cabinet.
Image via The Last Defender

Companies

As another change for 2019, the company winners were derived from the escape room votes. The voters did not vote directly for the companies. Companies that created multiple high-ranking escape rooms rose to the top. Because math.

From our vantage point, this worked well.

The top 20 companies are the 2019 TERPECA winners, again, an expansion from last year.

Here are the Top 10:

  1. The Room (Berlin, Germany)
  2. 13th Gate Escape (Baton Rouge, LA, USA)
  3. Escape Barcelona (Santa Coloma de Gramenet, Spain)
  4. Skurrilum (Hamburg, Germany)
  5. Mad Mansion (Spain)
  6. Palace Games (San Francisco, CA, USA)
  7. Unreal Room Escape (Spain)
  8. Wyjście Awaryjne (Poland)
  9. Paradox Project (Athens, Greece)
  10. Locurio (Seattle, WA, USA)

Here are the REA Reviews for Companies we’ve visited that Ranked 11-20:

For the full list of winners and finalists, visit the TERPECA website.

In-game: an old dusty organ in a study, the walls are adorned with trophy skulls and taxidermy birds.
Image via Skurrilum

Hype

Our Story

When last year’s TERPECA winners were announced, we had played 8 of the top 10 escape rooms, but we hadn’t played #1 (and 10, both from the same company).

This year we took a trip to Hamburg, Germany specifically to play “the 2018 best escape game in the world.” We bought the hype of #1.

On that trip, we played a stellar game. As we wrote in our review, Ghost Hunter Ernie Hudson and the Wailing Woman “was a fantastic escape room filled with many dramatic and unusual moments.”

In the year leading up to that trip, however, we’d seen some of these concepts executed better. As much as we tried to check our hype, we’d set our expectations way too high. The game couldn’t live up to its ordinal ranking.

A Word of Advice

Whether you’re planning a trip to The Dome, Paradox Project 2: The Bookstore, or The Man From Beyond, we recommend approaching the game as a truly fantastic escape room, highly recommended by many escape room enthusiasts, rather than as 1 of the top 3 escape rooms in the world.

We’re going to play Paradox Project 2: The Bookstore in 2020. We had a trip to Athens in the works before the award winners were published. We’re beyond excited to play this game. We’re also excited to play the other games in Athens that won awards and ranked in the Top Escape Room Project. We trust that they will all be outstanding escape rooms in their own ways.

Image via Strange Bird Immersive

By the Numbers

I like to dive into data projects, but TERPECA creator Rich Bragg has done an amazing job with that already, looking into every potential data issue, as well slicing, dicing, and delivering stats. Here are some stats he collected:

  • 105 nominators (people who played 200+ rooms) from 15 countries
  • 1,445 individual nominations
  • 507 eligible rooms nominated from 31 countries
  • 11 new countries with at least one nomination: Brazil, Georgia, Greece, Israel, Italy, Malaysia, New Zealand, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan
  • 229 finalist rooms from 22 countries
  • 370 voters (people who played 50+ rooms) from 23 countries (over five times the number from last year!)
  • 82,865 rooms played combined from all participants
  • 10 countries with their first ever TERPECA winners: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Greece, Israel, Poland, Switzerland

About the Project

The Top Escape Rooms Project is an attempt to find the best escape rooms in the world by leveraging the rankings of the most experienced escape room enthusiasts in the world. To learn more, read our call for nominators and voters and livestream announcement, and, of course, the Top Escape Rooms Project website.

What Do You Think of the List?

We think this is a fantastic list. We’re confident that all of the TERPECA winners (top 50) are worth playing. We know the ones we’ve played are absolutely worth a visit.

In fact, as we read through the list, we’re confident that you can find outstanding escape room recommendations past #200.

(There were a few rooms on the nominations list that baffled us as to why they were there, but these did not rise to the top, so other voters were probably confused too.)

The Top Escape Rooms Project delivered a valuable collection of games that are well worth playing.

In-game: Close up shot of a control computer.
Image via Crypto Escape Rooms

Are you Surprised by the Order?

The value is the collection of escape games. The precise ordering has far less value. This is an aggregation of subjective thoughts.

It’s fine if you prefer Tomb of Anubis (50) over The Observatory (41). The Observatory is one of the best humble games we’ve ever seen. Tomb of Anubis is anything but humble. They have different gameplay, scale, intent… and jaw-dropping moments. We’re thrilled we got to play them both. We enjoy experiencing what makes each one special, not whether one is better. If you’re near one of them, you really ought to play.

If you’re surprised by the order, remember that it’s a result of more than just opinions. It’s impacted by how many people have played the game (and when they played it). There are many variables at play here.

The Challenges of Ranking & Time

The challenge of ranking rooms increases with time.

We have more rooms to rank, yes, but also, different metrics to rank them against. Time passed since playing a game is a variable that’s difficult to account for.

The Vanishing Act won a Golden Lock Award in 2016. We played that game almost 4 years ago. It’s hard to rank it against the games we played this fall. Memory is a funny thing. Nostalgia, even more so. It’s difficult to rank memory against present-day reality, especially knowing that our rubric was so different when we created the memory.

Does that take away from The Vanishing Act? No. But it does make it very hard to rank it.

Up Next: The Golden Lock Award

It’s awards season. Although we sat on the advisory board for TERPECA, this award is not produced by Room Escape Artist and is not the same as our Golden Lock Award.

We’ll give out a different award on January 4, 2020. Tune in for the livestream. The Golden Lock Award is the Room Escape Artist award for our favorite rooms we played in any given calendar year.

It is an unranked list of favorites. Some of the games are newer than others, but we played them all in 2019. It’s a different rubric, a different voting system, and a different set of winners. It’s another collection that you can use as a guide.

Will there be overlap? Tune in on January 4th.

Save the Date: The 2019 Golden Lock Awards Livestream

The 5th Annual Golden Lock Award winners will be announced live on Saturday, January 4.

YouTube's red play button logo.

Key Details

Date: Saturday, January 4
Time: 8pm Eastern
Duration: Less than 30 minutes

More Details

Stay tuned for the livestream link, which we will share on January 1, 2020.

About the Golden Lock Award

Room Escape Artist will bestow the the Golden Lock Award upon our favorite escape rooms that we played in 2019.

Check out our list of previous winners to learn more about the award and read about some phenomenal games:

Dropping the “In”

Eagle-eyed readers will note that we’ve renamed our annual award the Golden Lock, as opposed to the Golden Lock-In.

We decided to drop the wordplay after the fire in Poland. Locking players inside of an escape room hasn’t been acceptable for a long time and we don’t want to encourage it in any way.

Escape rooms as a medium, especially the ones winning this award, have moved beyond the basic concept of “players are locked in a room and need to escape.”

New York: Everything Immersive Meetup – January 2020

Please join us for this winter’s New York City Everything Immersive Meetup, co-hosted by Room Escape Artist and our friends at No Proscenium.

Two smiley face stick figures carrying the final two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle into place.

Details

Please RSVP on Facebook or by contacting us.

  • Wednesday, January 22, 2020
  • Starting at 6:00pm and continuing for a few hours
  • Shades of Green Pub (125 E 15th St between Irving Pl and 3rd Ave)
  • We will be congregating in the back room

New Year, New Projects

There is no formal programming. This is a casual, community event.

At Room Escape Artist, we have tons of projects for 2020. We’d love to tell you about them!

We hope you’ll tell us all about your next escape room, immersive theater piece, VR experience, experiential marketing collaboration… or something wildly different.

Stop by at your leisure.

Who Attends?

This event is for those interested in, passionate about, or working within immersive arts & entertainment in New York City. We’re calling all creators, storytellers, directors, engineers, artists, designers, writers, performers, event planners, producers, and more.

Lovers of immersive entertainment are certainly welcome as well.

Escape Rooms are part of the larger immersive entertainment industry and this meetup encourages conversation and collaboration within the industry.

Venue

Shades of Green Pub is generously hosting this meetup free of charge. As always, please order food and drink from the venue to support their business.

Shades of Green Pub asks that we consolidate checks. Please order per table on one tab and take advantage of Venmo, Paypal… or cash (most immersive method of payment).

RSVP

Please don’t forget to RSVP on Facebook or by contacting us. It’s helpful to be able to give Shades of Green a head count.

See you in January!

My Mechanics Machines a Bolt Into a Combination Lock

🤯 Here is an incredible mixture of the right tools, a ton of skill… and a lot of thought.

3 Thoughts

  • You can tell that this person is skilled, not just by the quality of the finished product, but also by the lack of hand damage.
  • I can’t tell if those divots were false gates machined onto each disk or if they are just there to make it click when twisted.
  • If I could add one more thing, it would be an indicator line for the code.
A beautiful hand machined steel and brass 5 disck combination lock.

This beauty really should find its way to the LockPickingLawyer for testing.

Stream "Create The Escape" Today!

I finally got to watch Escape From Goopiter, the pilot episode of Create The Escape that I worked on. I’m so happy with how it came out. It’s adorable.

I feel really good about how it represents escape rooms.

Escape From Goopitor logo has planets and tenticles.

There are more details about this in my post from the other day, but the most important thing to know is that you can stream it from Universal Kids.

Please do watch it and share it far and wide.

A spaceship interior with windows peering out at a planet's surface.

Watch the “Create The Escape” Pilot Episode

[Updated December 2, 2019: a direct link to the streaming site]

I have secret projects on top of secret projects on top of secret projects.

A few months ago I did a little work on the Create The Escape pilot episode. Create The Escape is a show where kids create an escape room for their parents to play.

The target audience is kids… and you should watch it with your family this weekend!

Escape From Goopitor logo has planets and tenticles.
The kids named the game.

When Can I Watch?

The episode airs this Sunday, December 1 at 5pm and 9pm on Universal Kids.

There are also streaming options at universalkids.com.

The episode is labeled on TV as an extra episode of the series Get Out Of My Room.

A spaceship interior with windows peering out at a planet's surface.

What’s Your Involvement?

You’re not going to see me on TV again.

Hillary Manning, former manager of both Escape The Room NYC and Beat The Bomb, appeared on camera. I worked behind the scenes with Juliana Patel & Ariel Rubin of The Wild Optimists along with many other talented people.

There are lots of stories to tell, but now is not the time. All I’ll say is that I’m proud of how things shaped up… and December 1st will be the first time I see the episode.

It was an honor being involved. I hope that we’ve done the escape room world proud.